Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Churchill Theatre, Bromley
Peter Pan and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs may be the most recent additions to the pantomime canon, but they are also the most problematic. The pantomisation process of these beloved narratives is no easy task and more often than not productions are left resembling a modern fairytale musical.
Neither Fairy, nor Dame can be found in UK Productions’s Snow White leaving the show lacking in benevolent magic and comedy. Without a Dame, the pantomime relies upon Comic Muddles and the Queen’s Henchman Ramsbottom to share the Daming duties, but this doesn’t quite work seeing as much of the humour lies in and arises from the cross-dressed nature of the role. In the Magic Hat Gag it falls upon the Wicked Queen to deliver the payoff, whilst during the Ghost Gag the payoff is afforded to Muddles. Played by CBBC presenter Barney Harwood, Muddles is in no way grotesque and so the ghost exiting screaming, having glimpsed sight of Snow White’s best friend’s face, is somewhat illogical.
An important part of any Comic’s role is to help establish the shared community of Pantoland and demonstrate that a two-way traffic of communication exists between audience and stage. To help achieve this a call and response phrase, e.g. ‘Hiya Kids’, is often employed in order to encourage participation, but as Muddles is bereft of any such patter in this production, the audience takes a long time to warm up and is unsure when and whether it should be joining in at all.
One character who does inspire a reaction is Patsy Kensit’s Wicked Queen. Kensit excels in her first pantomime Villain role and struts across the stage as if a sultry serpent looking for its next victim. She also demonstrates great comic timing and when roused her Wicked Queen swiftly releases her inner chav, suggesting an interesting backstory for this character obsessed with beauty and wealth.
Although Kensit participated in last year’s Strictly Come Dancing, she doesn’t show off her pasodoble or quickstep. Prospective audience members shouldn’t be disappointed though as the six strong ensemble and students from the Debbie Fyffe Theatre School and D & B Theatre School give what few upbeat musical numbers there are their all.
The proliferation of ballads and plod-along-songs contributes to a rather slow and sluggish show, with the tone well and truly set by Muddles’s rendition of Bruno Mars’s ‘Lazy Song’. Some of the scene changes are left unaccompanied and this, combined with a lack of physical comedy and a mammoth 21 scenes in total including the prologue, results in a Snow White that often drags.
In the title role, Sarah Lark’s voice is a joy to listen to and she belts out Disney classics ‘Whistle While You Work’ ‘I’m Wishing’ and ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’ with clarity and sincerity. A kind and caring Snow White, Lark makes for the perfect pantomime princess and sparkles against Terry Parsons’ glittering sets. As Muddles, Barney Harwood is a sure fire hit with the kids and David Spinx’s Ramsbottom achieves the right balance of subservient servant to the Wicked Queen and loyal friend to Snow White.
The talented cast do their best with Andrew Ryan’s stalling script, but regardless of the many poo-related jokes and poison spells, this Snow White is seriously lacking in pantomime pratfalls and fairy magic.
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” plays at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley until January 2012.
Reviewer: Simon Sladen